What Emotions Do You Associate With Food?
Written by Heather Gerrish, RD
Emotions. We all have them, but how do our emotions impact what eat and how we feel about food? Taking a step back and focusing on not only how food fuels the body, but how our mind and emotions play a role in what we eat is important in creating a healthy balance - long term.
Have you ever reached for a savory snack when you are feeling bored? Tired? Stressed? Happy? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Sad? It’s safe to say we all have times in our lives that are stressful or we feel any of the above emotions - but out of the last 10 times you felt any of these things, how many times did you actually reach for food as comfort? Or as support? This blog will dive deep into the emotional connection we often have with certain foods and how we can pinpoint certain events or triggers to manage these occurrences in a positive way that puts the power back in your hands!
Sometimes battling thoughts or emotions that otherwise would impact your decisions about food can be overwhelming, but it’s important to know that establishing a routine to help you navigate your emotions an food doesn’t need to happen overnight.
Steps to consider when recognizing emotions and food:
Define the Moment
What events, occurrences bring on a pattern of reaching for something comforting in the form of food? It is certain social events or stress? Recognizing these trigger points is the first step in creating a plan to take back control of your choices around food and your emotions.
Refocus Your Energy
What could you refocus your energy on that would be a positive component to help you reach your goals? Could you refocus this energy on an activity, spending time with family or friends, taking a walk around the house or outside?
Implement the Alternative in Small Bouts
Maybe that is creating the goal of implementing your alternative once a week to determine if this new routine is best suited for your pattern, or planning to have this in your toolbox and have it available when you need it down the road.
Establishing a game plan for when you are feeling hungry vs when you are physiologically hungry is a process. Of course, eating something sweet or because of a factor aside from nourishing your body is completely appropriate and normal within a healthy routine - that’s what makes us human! There will be events with food - and more food! But how you handle these situations and take control of your own decisions is what matters.
What else could be influencing your mood around food?
Sometimes eating when we are bored or tired are not the only reasons we reach for that extra snack or comforting treat. Our emotions play a major role in our decisions about food, but our bodies can also play a part in influencing our food decisions. Feeling tired or sluggish could be your body telling you it is low on energy, or in need of a quick source of energy (carbohydrates!). In this case, using your new technique for recognizing what the origin of your craving is (emotions, social situation, or need for extra energy) you can attack it with confidence!
Hormones can also influence hunger, specifically the hormone ghrelin. This hormone is a component of digestion and absorption process and plays a roll with influencing our feelings of “hunger”, telling us to eat. Its counter hormone is leptin, which is secreted by adipose cells (also known as fat cells) when you eat a meal, completing the cycle and sending the message to stop eating and that your body is receiving the fuel it needs! At a hormonal level, these influence your physiological feelings to eat, but your brain and override powers still matter!
There are many things that can influence your decisions to eat, but being aware and knowing what your body could be trying to tell you, or what your emotions mean in terms of cravings and their impact on your food choices is a step to taking control of your nutrition and your goals!
Nahikian-Nelms, Marcia. Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology. Cengage, 2019